Grieving mum defends skipper's widow
The mother of a crewman who died when the Easy Rider boat sank in Foveaux Strait says Maritime New Zealand is mean and cruel to charge the skipper's wife, Gloria Davis.
However, a prominent boating identity disagrees, saying he believed Davis was lucky she wasn't charged with manslaughter.
Maritime New Zealand this week laid five charges against Davis in Invercargill District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Maritime Transport Act.
Davis is the widow of Rewai Karetai, the skipper of the Easy Rider when it sank and claimed eight lives.
Among the charges laid against Davis, sole director of AZ1 Enterprises - an employer company which also faces five charges in relation to the Easy Rider, are that she operated the boat knowing a skipper's certificate was required before it could be lawfully operated and that the appropriate certificate was not held; and that she permitted the Easy Rider to be operated in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to the people on board.
Davis declined to comment when contacted yesterday.
But Helen Topi, mother of Shane Topi who had just started as a crewman on the Easy Rider when it sank, said she felt for Davis.
"I don't feel it was her fault; it was a freak wave that tipped the boat over," Ms Topi said.
"All the families are still grieving. I think this is mean and cruel."
She declined to comment on the status of Mr Karetai's skipper's certificate.
Maritime New Zealand spokesman Michael Flyger said he was unable to comment as the matter was before the courts.
But Keith Ingram, a qualified skipper and editor of Professional Skipper magazine, said he believed Davis was lucky she wasn't facing a criminal charge of manslaughter.
"I believe the police are being compassionate and they are allowing the regulator to lay the charges under the Maritime Transport Act and the Health and Safety in Employment Act."
Maritime New Zealand set the rules for commercial activity and everyone had to abide by those rules, he said.
It had been given no option but to focus its investigations on Davis as the company director because no-one else was left, he said.
Bluff Community Board chairwoman Jan Mitchell expressed empathy for Davis yesterday.
"I suppose it's due process but my heart goes out to her. She's lost enough, she's had so much heart-break from it."
Another Bluff woman said it was "bloody terrible" that Davis had been charged.
"She's lost everything as it is."
Nine people were on the Easy Rider when it sank: skipper William Rewai Desmond Karetai, known as Rewai, 47, Shane Ronald Topi, 29, Peter Glen Pekamu-Bloxham, 53, Boe Taikawa Gillies, 28, John Henry Karetai, 58, Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40, Odin Nirvana Karetai, 6, David George Fowler, 50, and sole survivor Dallas Reedy.
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